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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Modi strives to mend ties with China

News Analysis |

India’s Foreign Policy towards China has been confrontational ever since the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) won the general elections in 2014. After the 1962 war between India and China, a trust deficit was created and the security relations between the two countries have never remained steady. The most recent incident was their military standoff at Doklam in August 2017.

Read more: China slams India PM trip to disputed region

Moreover, India’s enthusiasm for an informal alliance with the US, Australia, Japan (the quad) to contain China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) does nothing improve the situation. India’s thoughtless pursuance of anti-China politices will have its strategic costs for India itself.

In reality, China’s BRI is an inclusive project, open to all countries of the world. China has not confined it to the major powers or any selected group of countries but instead opened it for more than 65 countries. Contrary to this, the above mentioned quadrilateral initiative by India is not sufficient to contain China’s growing global influence.

It is a well-known fact in international relations that your neighbors cannot be changed. India and China have a historical global Indo-China border issue but on the other hand, they also share tremendous trade relations with each other. This is one of the most rigorously negotiated borders in modern history.

It is quite possible that with the improved China-India relations, China would subsequently play its part to normalize India-Pakistan bilateral relations

It seems that the BJP has learned some lessons from the previous nationalistic policies and is ready to adopt a realistic policy which serves its foreign interests broadly. Apparently, India has been relatively successful in enhancing its relations with Iran.

India’s Foreign Secretary, Vijay Gokhale held a number of meetings with Chinese officials to pave way for the two countries to hold a sustainable level of dialogue. The External Affairs Minister of India, Sushma Swaraj, also paid a visit to China for strengthening of ties. It is expected that by the time Modi meets Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in June in Qingdao, the Indo-China relations would be reshaped and bilateral ties improved.

Read more: Why does India fear China’s improving ties with the Maldives?

Eventually, it is also quite possible that with the improved China-India relations, China would subsequently play its part to normalize India-Pakistan bilateral relations in the future. Tensions between India and Pakistan have been rising ever since India has increased its cross border violations along the Line of Control (LoC).

 Another contributory factor is the role of the US in the region in light of the ongoing strained relations between US-Pakistan. US supports India’s role in Afghanistan for its economic development but it does not take into account India’s role in creating unrest in Pakistan through Afghanistan.  

Simultaneously, China is also heavily investing in Afghanistan. It is possible that with the improved Indo-China-Afghan relations, prospects of peace and stability in Afghanistan will improve.

Read more: Pakistan playing ball with China. Common enemy India the reason?

India is also competing with China to maintain its influence on Maldives. Both countries have conflicting interests in Maldives. The political situation in Maldives became volatile last year which resulted in an emergency in the country follow by imprisonment of judicial personnel and judges. On the other hand, China has massively invested in Maldives under its Belt and Road initiative so President Abdullah Yameen is more inclined towards China than India.  

In order to avoid any great misadventure in Maldives, India needs to cooperate with China. It is necessary for both regional powers: India and China to smooth their relations in future.

Read more: China rings alarm bells in India ; may militarily help Pakistan…

But it is yet to be seen if Modi’s government and BJP will put weight behind Gokhale’s stance to improve relations with China. As an official release on Gokhale’s talks in Beijing notes, “need to build on the convergences between India and China and address differences on the basis of mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns, interests and aspirations”.